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Samsung crams LTE into a tiny smartwatch chip

A lot more wearables could soon have calling and data.

Samsung's mobile division is in crisis mode right now, so of course the company is happy to talk about one division that is doing well: chips. It just unveiled the Exynos 7 Dual 7270, which is not only the first 14-nanometer wearable processor, but the first in its class to have a built-in LTE modem. That means your next smartwatch could connect to a cell network and let you tether your laptop without a smartphone -- a trick that's reserved for the LG Urbane LTE and just a few other wearables right now.

The chip uses several different fabrication technologies, namely system-in-package and package-in-package, with the fun acronym SiP-ePoP. That helped engineers squeeze in the DRAM, NAND flash and power management chips, while reducing the total height, to boot. It also jammed WiFi, Bluetooth, an FM radio and a GPS (GNSS) receiver into the 100 millimeter square (0.155 square inch) device. Overall, it's 20 percent more power efficient than last-gen 28-nanometer tech, Samsung says.

That should yield wearables that let you take calls or tether other devices over LTE and WiFi. Smartwatches or fitness trackers will also get GPS tracking and more without a huge power hit or need for a smartphone. To help developers get on board, Samsung has released a developer platform, but it could be a while before we see any devices that use the new chip.

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